Last night was a big night in Europe: the annual festival of mediocre pop music, staged brilliantly and then judged almost entirely on a geopolitical basis, that we call Eurovision.
Before I moved to Europe, my knowledge of Eurovision was limited to “that thing ABBA won once.” Then I watched it in the company of my wife and still couldn’t figure out why it was such a big deal. Then I watched it in the company of several others, at a Eurovision party.
This is the only way to watch Eurovision. There must be booze, and ideally people from several different nations so you can have friendly competition. Oh, and everyone must be very open with their opinions. (This part is not usually a problem.) Everyone judges the singers based on all sorts of criteria that have nothing to do with singing, which can get hilarious, but we do at least judge the songs based on actual musicality.
Which is more than anyone can say for the Eurovision judges (and apparently a large number of people who call in their votes), because the winners are never the ones who produce the best songs.
Watching Eurovision is a great way to learn about geography and politics. Many countries can be counted on to vote for their neighbors in the “share borders, share votes” philosophy. The eastern European nations almost always vote for each other and Russia. Nations that depend on Russia for their natural gas supply also vote for Russia. (I can just picture the backroom conversations that must go on. “If you do not vote for us, it will be such a shame when we are forced to double the price of our gas exports this winter. Such a shame.”) Votes are also given in response to recent events. Heck, I wanted to vote for the UK this year just because of the Ireland gay marriage landslide. Sadly, the British entry was too awful. I did give points for the dancers doing a quick Charleston, though. And for the neon costumes.
But the UK was positively stellar compared to Israel, which we voted “worst of all.” I’m posting it here for reader entertainment. Actually watching it is not recommended.
Our group was rooting for Germany and Serbia, the two entries everyone generally liked, and there was a lot of booing when Germany got zero points. Zero! This was baffling, until I remembered that judging has nothing to do with quality of song or performance.
Germany shared its ignominy with Austria, but at least Austria’s was earned. Its entry was so bad that I used it as an opportunity to go make another drink. Upon returning to the living room, I learned that the Austrian piano player’s instrument caught fire during the performance, which was apparently intentional, but did not improve the song.
Serbia’s entry was a “take me as I am” anthem and a great deal of fun. In a rare moment of agreement, the judges allowed a decent song to go as high as tenth place. Congratulations, Serbia! And please try not to notice that Israel got ninth place.
Meanwhile, Russia kept getting top points from nation after nation, and Russia’s entry was so bland and uninteresting that nobody in our group could remember the song itself. We were only able to recall that the lead singer went for a Marilyn Monroe look and had dark roots showing in her platinum blond dye job.
When it became obvious that Germany was being frozen out and Serbia had no real chance, we all switched our votes and began rooting for Sweden, which hadn’t really wowed us but which was the only nation with a chance of beating Russia. We did enjoy the graphics, though.
Sweden did indeed take the trophy, leaving Russia in second place and Italy (which we all hated) in third. Australia made its first appearance in Eurovision this year, and clearly got the “welcome, newbie!” votes to put it in fifth place. Just wait ’til next year, Australia, they won’t be as nice then! And nobody shares borders with you.
Special mention goes to Spain, which had the quickest costume change in history (quick as in, that dress went off stage at 40 kph), Georgia, whose singer must moonlight as a member of the Night Watch on Game of Thrones, and all of those singers who managed to stand straight despite the wind machine attempting to blow them off stage. Seriously, I think a stage hand set that wind machine to “hurricane” by mistake.
I’m sad to see it come to an end, but that just gives me a year to look forward to the next one. We’re already stocking up on the booze.